Those of us who find solace on Twitter amongst our fellow refugees of Miami Dade Transit are brought together on the social media platform by the tireless retweets of @FixMetroMDT, who provides a vital public service to all who feel the pain of using our terrible system by amplifying our endless stream of wholly justified complaints and frustrations day after day, hour by hour.
On the bitterly-cold morning of January 21, 2020, the operation of the Metrorail was halted by an unspecified “technical difficulty”, that disrupted the morning commute of thousands of people, who were left dangerously stranded on packed train platforms.
Such incidents are familiar to many residents of Miami-Dade County and had become a near-weekly occurrence not too long ago. But, they had abated somewhat over the course of 2019. Yesterday, however, @FixMetroMDT had its hands full with the furious and unrelenting tweets with graphic detail of the transit disaster unfolding.
The sheer scope and impact of the delay coupled with the fact that we are in an election year for County Mayor, the seat currently occupied by the very man upon whose shoulders our present-day transit catastrophe falls, helped unleash a Twitter storm of epic proportions.
Not a single person more fits on this platform at Dadeland North. Waiting for a train since 7:45 and there is an issue with something on the rails between Dadeland South and North. @FixMetroMDT @IRideMDT pic.twitter.com/3GbTYSjlyC
— Elaine de Valle (@newschica) January 21, 2020
I wonder if @MiamiHerald is going to remember times like this morning's complete collapse of @IRideMDT when @MayorGimenez runs for Congress, or will they continue to let him get away with blatant corruption and mismanagement as you have for the past decade. pic.twitter.com/5rJnVtKdS6
— Yelling at trains (@Yellsatttrains) January 21, 2020
The @IRideMDT delay at Dadeland North this morning is a clear example of how our public transportation continues to fail our residents time & time again.
— Daniella Levine Cava (@votedaniella) January 21, 2020
Even the elusive Transit Director, Alice Bravo, was spotted by Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Elaine de Valle, in the midst of the urban calamity browsing for some breakfast carbs instead of addressing the public, as most public officials in her position are expected to do.
Spotted buying snacks in the lobby of #Miami administration bldg…so was Alice Bravo applying for the city mgr job while the Metrorail trains were delayed this morning? Is she texting @MayorGimenez: “Bye Felicia!”? @FixMetroMDT pic.twitter.com/qfI2xNtgmD
— Elaine de Valle (@newschica) January 21, 2020
At some point, the discussion on Twitter always comes down to the infamous PTP or Public Transportation Plan, which our local leaders promised to implement in exchange for $17 Billion dollars in taxes to be collected through a half-penny tax. The sordid details of how that money was and continues to be misspent is now part of sad, perpetual lament
When @FixMetroMDT broached the subject, a follower included a hashtag in his response that should spread like wildfire in the coming months, because it not only captures the important question raised by @FixMetroMDT about everything that’s transpired in the world and our lives since the debut of the PTP, but, in light of Carlos Gimenez’ purported run for Congress and the aspiring Mayoral candidates, it can help galvanize our voices and effectively express how imperative it is to fix our failing transit system.
FaceBook, uber, Slack, and Instacart weren’t even founded yet #SincePTP
— Joe (@timeisvillmatic) January 22, 2020
A lot has happened in the world during this time. Amazing, world-changing events and breakthroughs that contrasts so starkly against our sputtering, stagnant and aging transit system, our leadership should hang their heads in shame.
Each year #SincePTP:
2002 – An entire continent got new money and the PTP came into existence
An enormous undertaking that would span the next few years, Europe’s new currency started circulating throughout the old continent on January 1st, 2002 with the issuance of 45.6 billion in freshly minted coins and printed notes. Perhaps this motivated our dear leaders in Miami to look for new money themselves.
2003 – The human genome was mapped and everything seems on track
An international team of researchers embarked on the daunting task of mapping and sequencing the entire human gene profile. The Genome Project was launched in 1999, the project was successfully completed in April of 2003. Four short years to achieve this groundbreaking accomplishment. Why wouldn’t we expect to have new Metrorail lines in Miami soon?
2004 – The largest social media platform was created. Are we still friends?
The social media phenomenon called Facebook, which currently boasts more followers than Christianity, opened its virtual doors in 2004. This is when everybody got distracted, but it was still early and plenty of digital sheep in the barn, it seemed.
2005 – HIV was cured. Yeah, Ok
Andrew Stimpson, the first medically documented case of HIV, baffled the scientific community when tests determined that he was free of the disease and declared to be cured of HIV in 2005. Suffice it to say, that we were also a little skeptical by now after paying into the PTP for four years and also coming back negative.
2006 – Pluto was demoted, we got Twitter and bus cuts?
Pluto had been considered a planet in our solar system for more than 70 years. In 2006, a few luminaries in the field of astronomy came to the conclusion it should no longer be included as such. A few days later, Jack Dorsey founded Twitter and MDT would soon rue the day. For now, Miami Dade Transit began announcing the first of several service cuts.
2007 – London to Paris in 2 Hours and 15 minutes
A massive feat of engineering connecting the British Isles to continental Europe, nicknamed the Chunnel, had been built in 1994. But, in 2007, a high-speed rail link was built to take passengers directly from London to the underwater tunnel at 186 mph. Tea with the Queen at 5 o’clock and a nightcap in Montparnasse. Miami completed its “study” of the Miami Trolley. Ugh.
2008 – A revolution in the making and excuses for the taking
A mysterious figure by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto publishes the Bitcoin whitepaper and takes the world by storm with his peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that will change the way currency works. Meanwhile the financial crisis gives Miami Dade officials all the excuses they will use in the coming years to deflect responsibility for the expansion of transit.
2009 – Barack Obama becomes POTUS and now it’s all just politics
Obama, the first black President, was also the first communist president. At least, that’s what the Cuban community in Miami believed. Wealthy, privileged people in Coral Gables actually took to the streets with signs and petitions to protest his healthcare reforms. The same people who oppose bike lanes in that neighborhood.
2010 – Germany pays the last of the reparations owed for WWI. Why are we still paying?
World War One ended in 1918. It took the Germans almost one hundred years to pay off the punitive debt it incurred as the loser of that terrible war. Did we, the residents of Miami Dade, lose a war? Why have we been paying into the PTP for eight years and still have nothing to show for it?
2011 – Kick the cartels and the politicians out
The townspeople of Cherán, Michoacán in Mexico decided enough was enough and took matters into their own hands. They organized and armed themselves, and told the drug cartels, the loggers who worked for them and the politicians who leached off everyone to GTFO. Today, they live in peace. Hint, hint.
2012 – Parallel universes and more perks for the tourism industry
The Higgs Boson particle is discovered by physicists at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, proving the Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe. In an equally stunning development, the Metrorail extension to Miami International Airport is completed. Just like the Higgs Boson, it changes nothing for the average resident of Miami.
2013 – 3D-printed body parts and more service cuts
Scientists print a human ear out of collagen at Cornell University, marking the first time living cells have been used in 3D printing technology and auguring a new frontier for medical science. Miami Dade County can’t print a decent bus schedule.
2014 – The tallest building in the Western hemisphere and snowbirds of a feather
One World Trade Center, built upon the ashes of the twin towers, was completed at a cost of $3.9 Billion when it was all said and done. The NY Port Authority had raised bridge tolls by 56% to cover its $1 Billion-dollar commitment to the project, but took a page out of the PTP scam and used the funds to pay for upgrades to the Interstate Transportation Network, instead.
2015 – A US Embassy in Cuba but still no train to Homestead, Florida
The resumption of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States was an historic event. More than 50 years had elapsed since President Eisenhower broke off relations after Fidel Castro took power; just a bit longer than the 47 years since the FEC eliminated all passenger services to South Dade.
2016 – A thousand-year-old feud resolved but we think we’re SMART
Catholic and Orthodox Churches, split since the year 1054, issue a joint declaration calling for the end to Christian persecution, wars and their millenarian schism. Meanwhile, in Miami, leaders come up with a new way to divide us and call it the SMART plan.
2017 – Saturn eats its young and we’re getting old waiting for a trolley
Thirteen years earlier, the Cassini-Huygens orbiter began its interplanetary mission and in 2017 it entered Saturn’s orbit never to leave it. It was the planned conclusion to its pioneering exploration through space. The only way to explore Miami is to get off the awful Miami Trolley and Uber to your destination.
2018 – Cloning primates in a lab might be our only hope
Chinese scientists successfully cloned monkeys at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience. Not only does this pose serious ethical questions, but it also raises a disturbing possibility for Miami politicians. To wit, does this mean they will be replaced?
2019 – Half a billion trees because we can’t stand the heat and can’t leave the kitchen
This past year, the Republic of Ireland committed to planting 440 million trees to fight climate change. It will be part of a 30-year plan to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050. Miami needs a 1-year plan to achieve moron-immunity.
2020 – …?
A Routine Dying
DeDe Bradley had just left the Kwik Stop with one of her six children in tow. Minutes later she was pronounced dead at the scene of yet another hit-and-run on the streets of Miami-Dade County. All of her kids, including a newborn, were now orphans. The little one with her that evening had to witness his mother fly through the air seconds after she had saved his life, pulling him back from the oncoming vehicle.
“Have a heart”, Bradley’s aunt said into the news cameras, hoping the killer was watching. “Give yourself up.”, she went on. “Think of it if it was your mom or your kids or anything like that.”
These kinds of tragedies have become so commonplace in South Florida, that the appeals to a sense of decency, which often follow, seem cliché. A lack of empathy is made even more egregious by the leniency the law affords drivers in cases of vehicular homicide.
In March of 2018, Denise March and Carlos Rodriguez were killed by a “distracted” driver. Pleading No Contest, Nicole Vanderweit, was slapped with a miniscule $1,000 dollar fine and 120 hours of community service. But, the ultimate proof that we are living in an automotive dystopia was the fact that her license was suspended for a paltry six months.
The World Health Organization calculates that 1.25 million people are killed every year as a result of car accidents, and anywhere between 20 and 50 million more are maimed or injured. 40,000 of such fatalities happen in the U.S., on average – a number that has been exceeded 3 years in a row, placing it just under suicide as a leading cause of death.
Miami-Dade County has the distinction of being the car-accident capital of Florida, itself the most car-accident-prone state in the nation. But, the greatest risk is reserved for pedestrians who brave the asphalt in Miami, which has a Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) of 182, a full 126 points higher than the national average, making us the most lethal place in the United States to take a stroll.
The deliberate evisceration of public transit by a cohort of municipal officials and constituents so hostile to quality of life, that even bicycles are deemed a threat, has made the problem exponentially worse.
People like Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos Giménez who is responsible for the wholesale misallocation of transit funds and Coral Gables Mayor, Raúl Valdés-Fauli, who twice blocked the implementation of bike lanes in the wealthiest suburb of Miami, have created the conditions to exact a penalty for having the audacity to not own or drive a car.
The Toll on Humanity
Miami is a place designed for the automobile, not people. Instead of neighborhoods we have interminable rows of cookie-cutter homes prized for the size of their garages and the landscaping of their driveways.
Daily commutes of 20 miles or more are the norm and our homes are glorified rest stops where we park our cars while we eat and go to the bathroom. Raising a family in Miami is practically impossible without a vehicle. Parents will enter into legally-binding contracts with their children before the age of 16 when they co-sign for their first car.
Everything is set up to keep you driving. Good luck dating in Miami without a car. Your friends will stop calling you if you always need a ride somewhere. The bus? That’s for poor people. That’s what grandma use to take back in Cuba or whatever place this place is supposed to be so much better than. The third world. Get a car. Un Transportation, they’ll tell you.
With very few exceptions, Miamians fall in line. Enthusiastically, in most cases. They’ll develop an emotional attachment to their two-ton metal object. Years of subliminal conditioning from movies and peer groups will make the transition seamless; obvious, even.
The city, itself, starts to become more and more car-centric. Any vestiges of a traditional city past are destroyed and structures meant for the automobile take their place. Overtown, a once thriving community, was leveled to erect I-95 back in the 1960’s. Today, hardly anything remains in Miami that does not cater first to the car and second, if at all, to people.
What’s left is an inhospitable ode to consumerism. The ruins of city life have become fetishized by developers who swoop in and build fake, city-like enclaves over areas decimated by decades of economic stagnation in a process called “gentrification”.
Brickellistas in the Midst
Teeming with young professionals, multi-million-dollar high rise condos and a brand-spanking new luxury retail mall, the “financial” district of Miami features what is considered to be a vibrant social scene. Look more closely and what you’ll find is more akin to a mining town from the old West, albeit without the dirt floors and swankier bars.
In fact, boomtowns are the blueprint for the modern American city, which aren’t really cities at all. Like those ad-hoc settlements where miners and journeymen settled for a time, Brickell was built to extract the earnings of its residents through alcohol and marginal forms of entertainment during their off-hours. Mere blocks from Brickell, which is undergoing a new development phase, the store and restaurant-windows of the abandoned boom town gather dust.
Mana Construction signs hang from virtually every awning along Flagler Street in the heart of the city. The development company has been buying up property in Downtown for a few years now. A sort-of real estate futures play betting on the area’s projected revival. Ostensibly, the new Brightline terminal, along with the eventual completion of “Miami World Center” will produce the economic equivalent of a Narcan shot to the practically dead city core.
Meanwhile, the Main Public Library hosts more indigents than students, the stench of feces and urine will assault your senses on every other downtown block and the historic Olympia theater clings to life between vacant lots, mocking the rare passerby with a sign that welcomes them to the “New Downtown”.
The contrast between these two areas, separated by a 50-yard stretch of the Miami River couldn’t be starker. But, there is nothing fundamentally different. Neither hosts a community of any kind. They’re just two shopping malls. One reflects the fruits of a recent capital infusion; the other sits abandoned, awaiting the laundered billions to materialize.
No Place Like Home
In the throes of America’s Westward expansion, a man whose biggest claim to fame would come as a result of his allegorical criticism of the robber barons in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, L. Frank Baum was the editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer when he wrote a screed in support of the genocide of Native Americans just five days after the massacre at Wounded Knee:
The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe those untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.
It is in the insane words of a Dakota Territories Settler, that we find the seed of the modern American city, enshrining within it the mentality that gave birth to a certain demographic of the modern American citizenry. The persistent pattern of village razing and development at the center of so much of this nation’s economy, innocuously referred to as the boom and bust real estate cycle, is nothing more than a manifestation of the colonial mind.
Perhaps no other city in the world suffers from a higher frequency of these unnatural cycles than Miami. The frenetic pace of development, redevelopment, house flipping and everything in between makes us shed more skin than a python in the Everglades.
The chances of anyone in Miami growing up in the same house are quite low for the vast majority of the cash-poor and underpaid population. What’s more, the chances of growing into adulthood and being able to find your childhood home may be just as slim. In all likelihood, your memories have been trounced by bulldozers and replaced with a parking lot.
Nothing lasts half a generation in Miami. Everything is always new, unfamiliar and on the chopping block. For converts of the church of free market economics, this is the way things should be. Consumer demand should dictate life on earth. Continuity is a luxury only the very rich can afford. The rest of us should be left at the mercy of their tornado of market-induced indifference and pining for home like Dorothy in the middle of the desert.
The King has no Brakes
The automobile is ever present in the American experience, like a clue to the pathology of escapism embedded in so many other of its “pastimes”. Cloaked in phony euphemistic descriptors like “social mobility” and “freedom”, the car is driving us off the edge of a cliff.
In Miami, much of the public transit conversation centers around traffic and finding solutions to the inevitable gridlock of more and more cars on the street. But, the issue is much more profound. In a place like Miami, where car-ownership is a requirement for socio-economic viability in virtually every sense, our lack of public transit is an attack against human being-ness.
When you don’t have a choice but to own a car and drive it every single day, that is not freedom. That is not social mobility. It is the very opposite. Your freedom – in its most basic and real sense – has been subsumed under a paradigm that requires you to carry a massive financial burden and unacceptable levels of stress as you try to not die or kill someone on the road each time you get in a vehicle.
It’s no wonder people don’t stop after hitting a mother of six on her way out of the convenience store. Human beings are not supposed to be in a position where daily routine poses a fatal risk to other human beings. The driver who killed DeDe Bradley is as much a victim as she was. Nicole Vanderweit shouldn’t have to be in a position in which a momentary lapse of attention results in the death of two people.
But this is where we live. What do we call such a place? This isn’t a city. It’s some sort of big roadside motel. A place to crash, at best.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Alejandra Agredo, a budding transit activist who, perhaps, would have been free to pursue other dreams if we didn’t need someone like her in a place like this.